J a n e t M c E w a n
We Are Petrified
Helston Folk Museum Cornwall.
We Are Petrified is a collaborative exhibition of work-in-progress by Ann Haycock, Janet McEwan and Alyson Hallett.
They have taken the Merry Maidens stone circle as their starting point: a circle of nineteen stones (all granite) embedded in a field not far from St. Buryan. Besides visiting the stones in a variety of weathers (mist, drizzle, sunshine), they have been responding to the Merry Maidens by taking photos, writing, devising experiments, drawing and research. The work in the Mezzanine space evidences certain shared concerns – revealed at points where their three creative trajectories have overlapped and intertwined – and danced together. Please note that the work is ongoing and will change during the exhibition.
We Are Petrified is a cornucopia of musings upon the Merry Maidens, a Bronze-age stone circle which is situated between Newlyn and Land’s End in a field beside the B3315 not far from St. Buryan. One legend about the stones says that there was once a Saturday night party that went on for too long. It was considered to be un-Christian to be dancing on the Sabbath and so the maidens at the party were turned to stone for their transgression. The circle is also known as Dans Maen, which means Stone Dance in the Cornish language.
We Are Petrified is located in the mezzanine exhibition space of Helston Folk Museum. The word ‘museum’ originally meant a temple, home or resort of the Muses; a place of study; an institution or repository for the collection, exhibition and study of objects of artistic, scientific, historic or educational interest. We are delighted to be able to bring our musings not only to a museum, but a Folk museum, a place that is created by the people for the people. We have taken The Merry Maidens as muses for our work, and we hope to honour and acknowledge the inspiration that has arisen from our contact with these nineteen granite stones and the ways in which stones touch and transform our lives.
In ancient times, the Muses, or nine-fold Goddess, were seen as the source of in-spiration, literally the breathing in of Ideas. They were goddesses of the liberal arts and named as follows: Thalia (comedy), Clio (history), Calliope (epic poetry), Terpsichore (dance), Melpomene (tragedy), Erato (erotic poetry), Euterpe (music and lyric poetry), Polyhymnia (sacred songs), and Urania.
Stones, like human beings, are porous. Some say they actually breathe.
For many years I worked almost exclusively with found stone - walking the landscape close to my home and studio, looking out for stones which would call to me and ‘inspire’ me.
In the Helston Folk Museum Mezzanine gallery I placed a granite riverstone found on one such walk in Scotland around 15 years ago, which I subsequently brought with me to Cornwall when I relocated there in 2006. The form of this stone seemed so perfect; tumbled for who-knows-how-many years in a river, that I could never bear to carve or alter it in any way.
After the breath taking journey through Helston Folk Museum’s vast, quirky and intriguing collection, visitors to the Mezzanine Gallery were encouraged to focus on their breathing…perhaps for a while to sit with this oval stone, on which I etched into the green algae stain the word CLIO, the name of the Greek Muse of History.
Meantime on one of the walls a sepia toned photograph of the Merry Maidens suggested that this stone may have histories beyond the one I have just told. J. McEwan.